Dr. Beads

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Some Thoughts on “Mommy Blogs” (Translation: RANT)

Warning: This is a prolonged rant. You may want to pause to get a cup of tea now, then again partway through. Two cups of tea should do it.

If you aren’t interested in reading it at all, that’s okay, too. Because even though this blog is, essentially, all about me, I care about my few readers and don’t want to compel anyone to read this against their will. This entry is long, complex, rambling, deliberately provocative, and based in deep-seated anger. Comments inviting me to go to Hell or similar will be ruthlessly expunged (at least until Ruth returns).

Ahem. Zo. Now we are perhaps ready to begin?

The New York Times, which has slipped so far from its presumed position as the newspaper of record that it should be called the New York Sorry My Watch Has Stopped and I Just Stepped in Dog Stuff, recently subjected several well-known bloggers to public scorn and derision. (I refuse to provide a link on the grounds that, karma-wise, it could encourage the Times to continue rewarding and publishing snide invective disguised as objective news or even commentary.) The reporter (and I use the term loosely) interviewed several functioning adult women whose blogs include – who’d’a thunk it! – entries on family life, their kids’ antics, the joys and heartaches and strains and wrenchingly hard work of raising a child.

The result? The women were characterized as immature navel-gazers who constantly seek validation. They’re somehow overly involved with their children, yet not involved enough, because they don’t instinctively know what to do, go ahead and do it, and then just shut up about it.

Instead, not only do they act as parents, and often as spouses, and often as wage-earners, but they actually write coherent, funny, touching, and sometimes heartbreaking blog entries about their experiences, which is evidently a crime if you’re a mother.

I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a blog that focused solely and obsessively on childrearing. Then again, I haven’t given a thought in several years to books, magazines, or TV shows that focus on childrearing. That’s my choice, based on my stage in life and my current obligations (including my obligation to stay sane and healthy). If I did read the books and watch the shows and pore over the magazines, I wouldn’t have time to wash my face and go to my full-time job, let alone have time to deal honestly with my children as remarkable, individual people who are turning out pretty damned decently.

The subject of an individual’s blog is her or his choice. Oddly enough, most of the “mom blogs” derided in the article don’t focus solely and obsessively on childrearing, and I would probably enjoy talking and even hanging out with some of the bloggers and their families. (See my links on the right side of this window.)

It’s true that some blogs, especially those written by parents of young children, do include a lot of entries about kids: feeding the kids, cleaning the kids, dressing the kids, doctoring the kids, listening to the kids, talking to the kids, teaching the kids by word and deed, screaming or not screaming at the kids, wondering why an approach that worked yesterday backfired today, goggling at the sheer intensity of kid meltdown, getting the kids to school on time, figuring out how the kids can put out more mucus (on a weight- or body-surface-area-normalized basis) than the average garden slug, seething at the unwanted and often clueless comments and advice from relatives, in-laws, and passersby, avoiding use of four-letter words in front of the kids (or not), feeling amazed and delighted and blessed at having the kids, deciding how and when to tell the kids about just what controlled substances you ingested and what bodily fluids you exchanged back in your younger days, etc.

Not only that, but some blogs include well-written and intelligent observations about how, no matter how good a person the blooger is, how much time she or he spends reading to the kids and taking them walkies, or how gladly she or he would lay down her/his life for that child, it's nevertheless true that the blogger is not a perfect parent. And mature reflections on the fact that, even if the blogger were the perfect parent, it wouldn’t matter anyhow, because kids are individual human beings who are ultimately separate and distinct from their parents. That’s because kids don’t bud off their parents like some of the organisms you read about in Introductory Biology or saw on Nova.

In common with some of the women who’ve become identified as blogging moms, I was not prepared for how grindingly difficulty and tiring parenthood is, especially when the child is very young. Venting is helpful. Allowing yourself time to be creative is helpful.

Given that parenthood is hard, expensive, time-consuming, painful, wonderful, funny, and crazy; that humans need to communicate; and that little real support is given to parents in this country (listen up, Retardicans), it’s no surprise to me that there are blogs about being a parent. Nor is it a surprise that some of these blogs have achieved high status in the blog world, the Internet world, the world world.

Would the reporter have sneered at male bloggers who write about their kids and parenting? I doubt it, somehow.

Some advice:

Please realize that any given blog is likely to reflect some wishful thinking, conflation of separate events or people, and a conscious choice to leave out "filler" (you know, the stuff that makes up most of everyday life). Also, good writing is a result of good editing (for clarity, entertainment value, etc.). Life isn’t as clear-cut, nor as linear, as fiction or news makes it out to be. Life doesn’t scan.

Unless a blogger is the new Marcel Proust, his or her blog will, of necessity, reflect less than 100% of what happens in real life. (I don’t blog some things I find funny, startling, provocative, etc., out of concern for the sensibilities of specific people in my life. Also, since I don’t want to get dooced, I relate very little of my work life.)

In short: Blogs. Aren’t. Reality.

If you are offended by a blog, but said blog doesn’t directly harm (or incite harm to) you or your loved ones, don’t read it. Change the channel.

If you find a blog self-indulgent, or boring, or obsessively focused on some aspect of the blooger's life, don’t read and critique it compulsively. Give it a rest. Check back in six months to see if the blogger’s life, and blog, have changed and moved in a direction that brings her or his interests more in line with yours. If it hasn’t, go look at something else. Do something else. Play with your pet. Read a book.

The blog isn’t about you, after all – ultimately, it’s about the blogger and her or his world view.

If you disagree with something in a blog, and you can’t restrain the urge to respond, then comment in that blog, or e-mail the blogger. (Be polite!)

Post something in your own blog.

Don’t passive-aggressively slip an “isn’t she just horrible?” comment into a third party’s blog or an on-line discussion group, as has happened so many times. (The phrase “Internet troll” springs to mind. So does my late father’s expression for people who like to stir up trouble: “Let’s you and him fight.”)

If you believe that someone’s child is in imminent danger of physical harm, or is being abused, try to confirm your suspicions. If confirmed, contact Child Protective Services. Don’t piss and moan in that person’s blog or in someone else’s blog.

Further, if you believe:
that you are (or were) a perfect parent
that you were raised by perfect parent(s)
that your life has ever been without stress, conflict, guilt, or random acts of badness
that you know best, about anything
that gay marriage threatens the American Way of Life
that privatizing Social Security will help ensure financial stability for future generations of retirees
that Jerry Falwell, Focus on the Family, the ACLJ, and Concerned Women for America don’t have their heads up their collective asses
that reality TV, Jerry Springer, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, or Dr. Phil has any value (other than as a bad example)
that your actions in this life don’t matter, because you have been “saved”
that evolution is “just a theory” promulgated by elite liberals
that women should be subservient to men, because, look, it’s right there in the Book, and besides, men are generally bigger and stronger
that angels exist
that it’s possible to communicate with the dead
that women above the poverty level should be forced to stay home with their kids
that women at or below the poverty level should be forced into the workplace without ensuring that they can find adequate, safe, and affordable daycare for their kids
that you’re on a mission from [insert name of deity] to smite the unbelievers, to drag unbelievers to the path of righteousness, or at least to decry unrighteous parenting

or if you:
have no life, yet want to share your great wisdom with others
know nothing about history, biology, psychology, or literature
like to give unasked-for advice
believe everything you read or hear
expect tax breaks for the rich to improve your life
and especially if you haven’t raised kids outside a religious enclave in the last 30 years…

and if you are about to post a vicious, negative, smug, self-righteous, snide, insulting, and/or passive-aggressive comment in any blog except your own…

…won’t you take a moment for yourself, and sit down to a heapin’, steamin’ bowl of STFU?

Now with added fiber!

It’s soooo good, and good for you, too!


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